Once again, horrific violence. A white gunman named Dylann Roof entered a Black church in Charleston, SC, and killed nine, including a pastor who was also a state senator. (New York Times: Charleston Church Shooting Leaves 9 Dead; New Yorker, Murders in Charleston by Jelani Cobb.)
According to witnesses who survived, the gunman asked for the pastor, sat next to him during Bible study, and then shot him, saying "I have to do it; you rape our women and you're taking over our country." The church in question is one of the oldest Black churches in the United States.
When I think about the racism and the hatred which underpinned this act of terrorism, I am beyond words. I react like a child: this shouldn't be possible. But it is all too possible for people to be steeped in hatred and fear of those who look different from them, and for that hatred to lead to murder.
Tomorrow is Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. There is a horrible confluence in that remembrance and this latest act of hatred against Black people. And that the shooting took place in a church, a house of worship and peace, just makes it more awful still.
The victims and their loved ones are in my prayers. You can send your support and prayers with the members of Mother Emmanuel church here, and if you would like to send a donation to the church and/or the families of the victims, here's the church's website.
A a white woman witnessing this horror from afar, I feel called to teshuvah, to soul-searching. What can I do to change the reality in which this kind of hate crime is possible? I want my nation to be better than this. I want humanity to be better than this.
May the Source of Comfort bring peace to all who mourn, and comfort to all who are bereaved.
- "Where did this man, who killed parishioners in their church during Bible study, learn to hate black people so much?" -- Anthea Butler, in the Washington Post
- "There is something particularly heartbreaking about a death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship." -- President Barack Obama, remarks
- "A hated people need safe spaces, but often find they are scarce. Racism aims to crowd out those sanctuaries; even children changing into church choir robes in Alabama have been blown out of this world by dynamite. That is racism’s purpose, its raison d’etre, and it has done its job well." -- Jamil Smith, in the New Republic
- And here are words from one of my rabbinic colleagues: "What we need is a passionate and healing response to our national pain and fragility, one that unabashedly calls out the racist undertones of media reporting, which, it seems, differentiates by label between white, black and brown criminals and victims." -- Rabbi Menachem Creditor, in the Huffington Post